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Simranjit Singh Mann was with the Indian Police Service and in 1984, after Operation Bluestar, the Indian Army operation on the holy Golden Temple at Amritsar, he resigned in protest. Mann was subsequently charged, among other things, with conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A passionate Sikh whose radical beliefs were honed by his family, Mann went underground and was apprehended while trying to flee the country. He spent five years in prison, after which all charges were dropped.
Pavit’s Stolen Years- A Memoir of Simranjit Singh Mann’s Imprisonment, is a daughter’s tribute to the ordeal the family went through after her father’s resignation. Three decades after Blue Star,the author looks back on the years her father spent in prison. In this disarmingly honest and emotionally charged account, Pavit Kaur documents her father’s hellish journey through the Indian prison system.
The book is not a testimony to politics and beliefs in Punjab or if Bhindrawale was a terrorist or a martyr. It is a narrative of one family’s trauma during one of the most turbulent period in Punjab, when their loyalties were questioned because of their religious beliefs and sentiments.
The Book starts with Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” and the epilogue is a beautiful rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. Through a series of letters written by Mann from prison and first person accounts, Pavit describes the ordeal. While Mann languished in prison, his family stood strong trying to bring him back home.
The book is also a celebration of India in a manner. This was one instance when democracy rose forth to free their man from the clutches of a failed system. Mann won the parliamentary seat in Punjab from Tarn Taran with the highest margin of votes ever in the country in 1989.
To rate a memoir is like grading memories. Hence you will not find any rating with this review.
An interesting read for those who feels emotionally affected by 1984 and the years that followed.
Stolen Years, A Memoir of Simranjit Singh Mann’s Imprisonment by Pavit Kaur
Random House India